"[A boss is] someone who is creative, innovative, unrelenting in his or her efforts to bring their ideas to life. Being a boss is always about bringing other people along with me; creating space for other people to shine and be great."
A collection plate could, in fact, be passed after that tweetable gem from the Olympic track and field champion, Sanya Richards-Ross. Richards-Ross is bossed up and ready to add to her resume, which already boasts an impressive track and field career (four Olympic gold medals and numerous World Championship medals from 2002 through 2016); a luxury hair extension line; select endorsements; and even producer credit on a docuseries about her life titled "Sanya's Glam & Gold."
Some might wonder what could she possibly want next. The short answer?
The rest of her things.
Transitioning From The Track
Courtesy of Sanya Richards-Ross
Three years after hanging up her track spikes, Sanya's multi-hyphenate boss ambition is clearer than ever. Having recently founded the digital community MommiNation.com and being tapped to co-host a one-of-a-kind Will Packer-produced entertainment news show, Richards-Ross is erecting a brand new empire. And its foundation was firmly laid on the track.
She credits her Jamaican parents' sage wisdom and strong values for much of her drive to be valuable beyond sports. "I remember my parents always telling me to not be one-dimensional. I remember hearing that all through high school when track was my life. My dad would say, 'If you're gonna be acing it on the track you've got to be acing it in the classroom.' And that pushed and challenged me [to know] I can do [multiple] things at once at a high level."
And Sanya rolled that drive into Olympic success, quickly building a reputation as a phenom in the 400m and 4x400. She experienced the glory of a long athletic career but also witnessed the weight that could come with the transition out.
"I saw a lot of my friends go through a stage of depression because you go from being in the limelight, doing something you're very passionate about, to not knowing what's next. It does impact how you feel about yourself. I wanted to make sure when track and field [was] over I [didn't] go through that slump that a lot of athletes go through and I [could] find the next thing and feel valuable beyond sports."
Richards-Ross announced her retirement shortly after sustaining a hamstring injury at the July 2016 Olympic trials. In what others might have found defeat, Richards-Ross found opportunity to reflect, graciously releasing one chapter and writing the next with clarity and precision. A simple yet powerful prayer kept her perspective intact:
"Thank you Lord, for giving me this gift of running and thank You for all it has allowed me to experience. And I am now giving it back to You."
"I get emotional now saying that prayer because it was really tough for me because I did feel like I had one more Olympic cycle in me if I didn't have the foot surgeries and struggle with injuries toward the end of my career. I saw myself being a two-time gold medalist in the 400m. I [felt that I] could go back and win it one more time. It was difficult but I kept saying that prayer until I was really at peace with it. A lot of God's blessings aren't meant to be forever; they're seasonal," she reminisces.
"[After that], I started to prepare myself physically and mentally for what it would mean to walk around in this world not hearing, 'And in lane five is Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross!'" she continues with a laugh. "And to be able to feel like I'm still standing on a pedestal humbly because I have so many more skills that I can offer to the world. I started mentally talking myself through how great I can be. I always say, 'Greatness is not fleeting. It lives in me.'"
Making Mommy Moves
Courtesy of Sanya Richards-Ross
Greatness steeped in intentionality. That's the prism through which the 34-year-old mother of one shines brilliantly. Married in 2012 to her college sweetheart, Aaron Ross - a two-time NY Giants cornerback Super Bowl champ (talk about equally yoked!) - Richards-Ross took her time stepping into motherhood. Sanya and Aaron waited seven years after marriage before welcoming little 'Deucey,' their son, into the world.
"Mentally, spiritually, and physically [we] were ready for him," Sanya says firmly. "Bringing another life into the world - I believe it should be intentional. It should be something you really want because it is a hell of a commitment. Being an athlete, it's the opposite, you have to be selfish. It's one of the ingredients of success. Having a child, you have to really be selfless."
"Being an athlete, it's the opposite, you have to be selfish. It's one of the ingredients of success. Having a child, you have to really be selfless."
She found the time beneficial for building a solid marriage foundation and focusing on the practices necessary to raise her family well.
Easing into mommyhood, Sanya looked into the digital space and noticed a void and a two-fold opportunity: to build a platform that celebrates the entirety of motherhood and womanhood and to create a support system as she transitioned from sports into motherhood. So she founded, the digital platform, MommiNation.com.
"I saw that there were some incredible mommy bloggers and blogs but what I saw was missing was a platform that speaks to moms holistically. Don't just talk to me about my little one but talk to me as an entrepreneur, as an author, as a wife, as a partner, as a friend. MommiNation was birthed out of my idea of wanting to create that same community I had in sports in a new arena. My arena has changed but my desire to be on a team and be in community hasn't."
From The Track To The TV
Courtesy of Sanya Richards-Ross
The thread of teamwork runs intricately through her life story from one venture to the next, including her upcoming five-week run as co-host of Central Ave., an urban-centric entertainment news show produced by Will Packer Productions for FOX. Sanya will be hosting alongside Julissa Bermudez, effectively helming the first entertainment news show hosted by two women of color.
"It's kinda blown my mind that it's actually happening. We have a five-week test on December 4th on FOX - similar to Entertainment Tonight/Access Hollywood but with urban sensibility," Richards-Ross says.
The show will dive deeper into nuanced content that matters to urban communities than most entertainment news shows are equipped to go. Created within the social media age, it promises to be a one-of-a-kind experience.
"Our team is really smart and keen on how we want to create a show with this social media energy. [For example] where do we get that real solid report on who Nipsey Hussle was and in-depth stories? John Singleton? They mean a lot to our communities."
Richards-Ross is very clear: She will not be pigeon-holed and delay is not denial.
Her advice for the mothers, athletes, entrepreneurs who are facing life's transitions? Be OK with not seeing the fruits of your labor right away while working hard anyway.
"My whole life I've learned how to work hard, train, believe and be OK with delayed gratification. That's what separates great entrepreneurs from the ones who don't make it. You stick with it when you get injured, when you get a bunch of no's, when no one is cheering for you. That's what makes a great entrepreneur. If you're transitioning from one career to another you have to be OK with delayed gratification. I don't get to get a gold medal with MommiNation.com because I was a gold medalist in track and field. I have to figure out how to start all over again. Be authentic transparent. Be committed to whatever that transition is. Start from ground zero and work your butt off. Greatness is in you."
"That's what separates great entrepreneurs from the ones who don't make it. You stick with it when you get injured, when you get a bunch of no's, when no one is cheering for you. That's what makes a great entrepreneur."
The one word that sums up her life to date:
"'Inspired.' That's the word that is getting me out of bed. I've put in all this work and planted all these seeds and I'm starting to see them blossom. It makes me want to keep going and stand on my own platform."
And we'll be in the stands rooting for her.
To keep up with Sanya, visit www.MommiNation.com and follow her on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Sanya Richards-Ross
Ashley is a storybuilder and storyteller who writes and produces to inform, connect, encourage and evoke. Vibe with her on Twitter/Instagram: @ashleylatruly.
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30 Years Later: Here's Why I Think 'Living Single' Had The Healthiest Couples On TV
I don’t know about (some of) y’all but every time that I see a 90s movie or television program turn the Big 30 (or hell, even 20, for that matter), it definitely makes me feel some type of way. Lawd, where does the time go? Truly. And I definitely don’t feel any differently about Living Single — the show that, for starters, we all know Friends should attribute at least 75 percent of its success to since it basically gypped its entire concept from it. (Don’t get me started! Just know that you can read more about that very thing here, here, here, here, and here).
Anyway, there is so much to adore about the sitcom, even as it (rightfully so) plays in heavy rerun rotation to this day. There are the solid friendships between four Black women who remind me, interestingly enough, of the four hilarious seniors fromThe Golden Girls: Khadijah could easily be Dorothy; Synclaire would be Rose; Max would be Sophia, and Regine would be Blanche (wild, right?). There’s the beautiful friendship between their male sidekick neighbors, Kyle and Overton (Black male bonds are also a very precious and necessary thing). There are the relevant storylines, quick wit, and the kind of entertainment that most television shows today can’t even begin to touch (le sigh). Yeah, Living Single deserves all of the flowers to the point where I’m still pissed that it was canceled in the middle of its fifth season (although, thankfully, many questions were actually answered in the last episode).
Yet, even with all of this said, if I had to name my absolute favorite thing about the show, hands down, it’s the fact that when I stop and think of all of the shows that I’ve watched over the years (and it’s been a lot of them), Living Single is one where I think that every main love connection was pretty damn healthy. Not only that, but there is one couple, in particular, who I think a lot of folks could stand to learn how to love well and right from (heads up, it’s probably not the one you think).
So, in honor of the show being 30, humor me as I take just a few minutes to formally and officially shout out a few reasons why, when it comes to displaying Black love and hell, love in general, Living Single set the bar, raised it and then added tax — thirty years ago and present day.
Khadijah and ScooterGiphy
I like getting t-shirts made with pics of some of my favorite Black love couples. For instance, I recently got one done with Jesse and Angie on it (the real ones know who they are); folks always compliment me when I wear it.
There’s one couple, in particular, though, who’s been triggering the mess outta me for the past several months. It’s because, although I crown them as the healthiest fictional couple in television history (Black or otherwise), it’s hard as hell to find any good shots of them. Yep, that would be Khadijah (Queen Latifah) and Scooter (Cress Williams).
They were childhood friends who stayed friends. They always wanted what was best for each other. They didn’t let really good sex (remember their first time when Khadijah said, “We started kissing, and my clothes fell off!”) infect their friendship. Even when they got engaged, they broke it off because they knew that, even though the love was there, they were doing it (at the time) for the wrong reasons. They supported each other’s careers. Scooter was not threatened by Khadijah’s ambition (or other boyfriends; remember when she was about to move in with ole’ boy and Scooter was basically like, “I mean, I did pop in unannounced. My bad.”) Yet, he was also confident enough to tell her about herself sometimes (because if there’s one thing she hated, it was receiving correction and giving apologies).
On the flip side, when Scooter had to travel away for long periods of time, she didn’t put unrealistic restrictions on him. They both just kind of let each other be and allowed their love for one another to exist — even if it had to change different forms in different seasons of their lives. Their love was so full, real, and special that I truly believe that if Fox hadn’t “foxed” the show (SMDH), they would’ve gotten married — and had a really solid and drama-less union. Because the relationship was about freedom, respect, and friendship. And that is healthy as hell, y’all.
Yeah, HANDS DOWN, they are the cream of the crop when it comes to relationships to me. Who gives AF about Rachel and Ross (from Friends)? Khadijah and Scooter have always run crop circles around them in my eyes, chile.
Synclaire and OvertonGiphy
I already know that most of y’all probably think that I should’ve led with Synclaire (Kim Coles) and Overton (John Henton) since they were definitely the most popular couple on the show (again, I had to go with my personal favorite, though) — and with just cause.
All of the “day ones” remember that the first episode of Living Single featured Overton seeing Synclaire for the first time and instantly being drawn to her and her quirkiness (like that big ass troll doll that she rolled up to the brownstone with). He pined away silently for what seemed like forever as he was low-key courting her in the process (like when he faked being an accounting expert just to spend time with her). When they finally did get together, Synclaire and Overton took their time before having sex and yet were super affectionate and doting on one another in the meantime; this serves as a great reminder that intimacy doesn’t have to require copulation. They openly communicated their needs and expectations. They shared a liking for some of the strangest stuff around.
Overton had a way of being protective yet supportive of Synclaire (like when she was naked in that play), while Synclaire had his back when it came to things like resolving matters with his ex (remember when he kissed his ex and realized he was really over her? Classic). Something else that was cool about Synclaire and Overton is you saw dating go to courting, courting go to engagement, and engagement go to a traditional church wedding. They were sweet. They were old-fashioned (without being super critical of the other couples). They were adorable. They had a not-perfect-yet-very-uncomplicated kind of love. And isn’t it grand to be reminded that Black love can be just that way?
Synclaire and Overton are the kind of relationship that a lot of us probably imagine our great-grandparents had back in the day. And if anyone on this list is probably still together with some grandkids who also have troll dolls and tool belts for toys, it would be them. No question.
Maxine and KyleGiphy
These two right here, boy. Definitely, the couple who was the most fun and entertaining to watch consisted of Maxine (Erika Alexander) and Kyle (TC Carson). And can we take a moment to shout out the trendsetting hairstyles Maxine had and how intentional Kyle was about tailoring his outfits? Salute. Anyway, if any two people are an example that constant banter can indeed be foreplay, they would be it.
The clap backs were top-tier (and daily), and yet, there was a brilliance in their timing and delivery that makes them ending up together (eventually) make a ton of sense. Come to think of it, that’s what I liked the most about them — the way they let life mature some things in them both. When they had sex for the first time, they went on a date and realized (I think it was more Max’s fear than anything at the time) that good chemistry and great sex do not automatically make a solid relationship (which is mature as hell).
When they tried having just a sexual relationship (because the sex was so good), they were careful not to let it ruin their, I’m not sure if it was exactly a friendship (LOL), yet they were definitely solid advocates of one another. Even when tinges of jealousy would rear their ugly head (like when Kyle brought a woman, played by Kenya Moore, on a date), they were self-aware enough to reel it in, and when it came time for Kyle to leave for London (check out the backstory on why TC Carson actually left the show early here), even though he wanted Max to come with him, they didn’t “fairy tale” their journey. Kyle went on with his life, and Max went on with hers. Hey, it happens. Even with great sex and chemistry…to some, it happens.
Yet the best part about these two is how the universe has a way of making sure people who are meant to be have ample opportunities to accept that fact. And while it is a little wild to spin the story to where Max goes to a sperm bank and the sperm she gets is Kyle’s — I do adore that she ended up pregnant at a time when both of them appeared to be ready for a baby and a relationship together. Finally, there was full-circle peace — still loads of banter-foreplay but also a ton of peace. Well played.
Regine and Darryl
Okay. If y’all are true fans of the show, then you know that a fun fact is Regine (played by Kim Fields, who also left the show early; read why here) and Kyle dated briefly — which makes them another healthy couple when you stop to think about it because going from dating to a very sweet brother and sister dynamic? That doesn’t happen every day. And while some of you might be surprised that I didn’t go with fine ass Keith (Khalil Kain), Dexter (Don Franklin), who she ended up getting engaged to, or even the Jamaican writer Russell (Shaun Baker), who always got her to shimmy and who she said was a great kisser…I think there is another romantic connection she had who topped them all: Darryl, who was played by the late and great Heavy D — the ONLY celebrity who, to this day, I can personally say that I haven’t heard one negative thing about whether it was during his life or it was after his death.
Clearly, their relationship wasn’t super long-lasting because I couldn’t even find a GIF for it like I did for the others. Doesn’t matter, though. Darryl was a blue-collar brotha with a heart of gold, a strong sense of spirituality, a profound way of looking at life, and a comfortableness in his skin that actually got Regine out of a lot of her superficialness and materialism — and that deserves a lot of props all on its own. And because he taught Regine to look past the surface, even when they did break up, they continued having a deep respect for one another. So much, in fact, that when Regine found out that Darryl’s bride-to-be, Tina (Vivica A. Fox) was screwing around, she made sure to tell him because that’s how much she still cared for him. Beautiful.
Regine and Darryl are reminders that sometimes people come along to “refine our rough edges” so that we’ll be ready for who our “forever” is actually supposed to be. And yes, that deserves its own round of applause.
Can you tell that I watched Living Single more than a lil’ bit? Indeed and with no regrets, especially these days. Because sometimes, as I’m flipping through channels and I can hear my own self say, “TV really does hate my people” (which is another message for another time), it’s nice to see throwbacks that are full of integrity, humor and yes, healthy Black love. And as you can see, one that was in excellence is Living Single, for sure.
So, from the very bottom of my heart and with oodles of appreciation — Happy 30th, Khadijah and Scooter, Synclaire and Overton, Max and Kyle, Regine and Darryl. You will always be necessary…because healthy Black love always is.
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Featured image by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images